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United they stand: Sirius and XM

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Tom Anderson, Editor in Chief

Tom Anderson, Editor in Chief

In case you didn’t hear (or simply didn’t care), on Monday the U.S. and Canada’s two competing satellite radio providers, XM and Sirius, announced that they were merging to form a single company.

Nestled among all the enthusiastic verbal warm-and-fuzzies conjured up by hardened P.R. professionals (and that’s not intended to be a dig at my P.R. major friends or their professors) within the official press release was this succinct bullet point: “Enables Satellite Radio to Better Compete in Rapidly Evolving Audio Entertainment Industry.” For those of you keeping score, that’s quasi double-speak for “United we might stand, divided we will most definitely fall.”

Now some of you may recall that I wrote how madly in love I was with XM on this page a couple of semesters ago, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I was. But there were soon plenty of bumps in the road, like occasionally spotty reception, the crash-prone nature of the free-with-subscription online player, and my original receiver dying suddenly and being a pain in the posterior to replace, even though it was still under the manufacturer warranty.

Then it would seem that the cassette deck in my car gave up the ghost. But I could just use the receiver’s wireless FM transmitter function to get my tunes, right?

Er, no; being that the power antenna on my car is hideously expensive to replace (FYI: Just because you can buy some German luxury cars for cheap doesn’t mean you can own them for cheap.) and I could still get most FM stations most of the time, I decided to let it go.

But the final nail in the coffin came when I bought my class ring. (Stay with me; this will start making sense in a minute. Maybe.) When I ordered my ring, Jostens was offering to throw in an iPod Shuffle (albeit the prior generation model, you know the one which bears an unfortunate resemblance to a home pregnancy test) to sweeten the pot.

I figured “Why not?”

Well, turns out when I pulled it out of its shipping envelope it was love at first sight. The elegantly simple design and interface, coupled with the equally intuitive iTunes bundled along with it, made a convert out of me. Now I knew what the cult-like fuss was about.

But the story doesn’t end there. At the recommendation of my dad, I purchased a 30-gig Video iPod at Costco, with the intention of seeing whether or not he would like one of his own. Needless to say, he would love it at least as much as me, especially considering our similar levels of disgust with radio (20 minutes of music for every 40 of commercials).

Plus, unlike satellite radio, you can take it pretty much anywhere, you don’t need a monthly subscription, and you never have to put up with the occasional song that makes you want to put a cordless drill to work on your eardrum.

To be frank, the change facing satellite radio is basically the Darwinian principal of natural selection, but with consumer electronics instead of living organisms. Sometimes, rivals can coexist, like PC and Mac; other times, one technology will force another into extinction, such as VHS did with Betamax; and, rarely, two or more entities will come together for mutual benefit such as defending against common threats, as is the case with satellite radio and its battle against HD radio, portable personal audio devices like the iPod and who knows what else is in the pipeline.

Other battles are being fought between digital cable and satellite TV, Blu-Ray DVDs and HD-DVDs, and DSL and cable Internet service.

When all is said and done in this never-ending game of survival of the fittest, it’s consumers like us who decide who lives and who dies. Which begs the question: How would Darwin get his music?

Tom Anderson, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at tanderson1@ulv.edu.

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